The 30 Best Non-English Language Horror Films of the Past 25 Years

21. Cold Prey 2 (Mats Stenberg, 2008, Norway)

Screenplay by Thomas Moldestad & Martin Sundland & Roar Uthaug & Axel Hellstenius & Marius Vibe

Cold Prey 2

Five screenwriters on a film is usually not a good sign but this team delivers a very memorable film with Cold Prey 2 which was clearly inspired by Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 sequel misfire Halloween II. Starting just after the events of Roar Uthaug’s Cold Prey (2006), this sequel takes place primarily within the confines of an isolated hospital as the sole survivor of the first film discovers that the hulking killer that brutally took the life of her friends is alive and inside the same hospital.

Anchored by an intense lead performance by Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Cold Prey 2 is superior in every way to the original. A less well-received prequel Cold Prey 3 was made by Mikkel Braenne Sandemose in 2010.


22. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008, Sweden)

Screenplay by John Ajvide Lindquvist based on his novel

let the right one in

A bullied boy is befriended by a girl who is not quite human in director Alfredson’s modern classic that stands as one of the high water marks of vampire cinema. It’s rare but some of the great horror films have very strong and resonant subtexts. David Cronenberg’s 1979 The Brood is about the devastating effects of childhood abuse his 1986 remake of The Fly is about the decay of a relationship.

Let the Right One In is about lonely lost souls finding a real connection in a literal and figurative cold and brutal world. The film was unnecessarily remade in 2010 by Cloverfield and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves as Let Me In.


23. Mutants (David Morlet, 2009, France)

Screenplay by Morlet & Louis-Paul Desanges


Overshadowed by great horror films like Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury’s Inside (2007), Mutants deserves more credit as one of the best films of the French New Wave of horror cinema. In the middle of a zombie apocalypse, a resourceful couple hides out in an isolated abandoned building. The woman is pregnant and the man is infected, slowly transforming into the kind of inhuman monster they are trying to escape.

Adding to Mutants’s overall quality is the focus on the central relationship and the film’s unique and bleak snowy setting. Co-screenwriter/director Morlet, who occasionally goes by David Morley, has an aggressive directing style that would seem to make him an ideal target for America production companies. He most recently wrote and directed a home invasion film called Home Sweet Home (2013).


24. Gantz (Shinsuke Sato, 2010, Japan)

Screenplay by Yusuke Watanabe based on the Hiroya Oku manga


Gantz is easily one of the most overlooked and underrated films on this list. Based on a popular manga series that had been previously adapted into a multi-part anime, Gantz tells the story of a pair of teenagers who are killed in a subway accident only to find themselves in an alternate dimension where a mysterious black sphere commands them to find and kill deadly alien creatures. The unique action sequences in Gantz are something to behold including a showdown with a lethal robot in a parking structure that is simply amazing.

The film stars Kenichi Matsuyama who had previously turned in highly memorable performances as the highly subdued but brilliant detective L in the aforementioned Death Note films and Hideo Nakata’s spin-off feature L: Change the World (2010). Sadly, the sequel to Gantz called Gantz: Perfect Answer (2011) is a definite step backward and a real disappointment.


25. I Saw the Devil (Kim Jee-woon, 2010, South Korea)

Screenplay by Hoon-jung Park


Starring South Korean cinema star and director’s favorite Lee Byung-hun and Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik, I Saw the Devil is the story of a government agent pursuing the serial murderer who killed his pregnant wife. The screenplay deserves a lot of credit as the brutal film takes genuinely unexpected turns that will take even jaded film lovers by surprise including a taxi ride that turns deadly.

Choi Min-sik’s performance as the villain is nothing short of spectacular as the actor perfectly captures the arrogant, sociopathic nature of his murderous character and I Saw the Devil’s fight scenes are incredibly intense and superbly executed. Having previously made the horror film favorite A Tale of Two Sisters, the excellent neo-film noir A Bittersweet Life (2005) and the popular action-oriented Western The Good, The Bad & The Weird (2008), this is director Kim Jee-woon’s best film to date.


26. Rabies (Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado, 2010, Israel)

Screenplay by Keshales & Papushado


A group of friends stranded in the forest collide in various ways with other characters converging on the same area including a serial murderer and police officers. A domino effect of paranoia leads to death and lots of it in this genuinely clever film illustrating a downward spiral of chaos and madness that lies just beneath the surface of seemingly normal situations.

While this might be heresy to some, this screenwriting/directing duo’s first feature Rabies is a better film than their much more highly lauded 2013 neo-film noir Big Bad Wolves which goes off the rails into black comedy and never recovers, destroying any impact the initially promising revenge storyline may have had.


27. Rammbock (Martin Kren, 2010, Germany)

Screenplay by Kren & Benjamin Hessler


Berlin starts to become overrun by zombies in screenwriter/director Kren’s brief but highly accomplished debut feature. Kren cleverly makes the most of his limited locations including the creation of a homemade battering ram and delivers a zombie film that doesn’t feel cliché or unnecessary given the very high exposure of that particular subgenre.

The director’s latest film Blood Glacier, originally called The Station and horrendously re-titled, misses the mark but should be applauded for its reliance on practical creature effects.


28. We Are What We Are (Jorge Michel Grau, 2010, Mexico)

Screenplay by Grau

We Are What We Are

Devastated by the death of their father in the film’s unforgettable opening sequence, a family devoted to cannibalistic rituals must fend for themselves with disastrous results.

Screenwriter/director Grau unnecessarily adopts a black comedy approach in certain scenes but keeps the film on track and achieves the difficult goal of delivering a highly accomplished and memorable film with absolutely no likable characters. We Are What We Are was remade by Stakeland director Jim Mickle and his screenwriting/acting partner Nick Damici in 2013 with the story transplanted to an impoverished American town.


29. Sleep Tight (Jaume Balaguero, 2011, Spain)

Screenplay by Alberto Marini

Sleep Tight

Building on the success of his REC films and returning to the feel of his overlooked 2006 gem To Let and working with that film’s co-screenwriter Marini, director Balaguero crafts the disturbing tale of a twisted apartment manager’s obsession with a female tenant in Sleep Tight. Spanish star Luis Tosar turns in an unforgettable performance as the supremely bent Cesar.


30. Here Comes the Devil (Adrian Garcia Bogliano, 2012, Mexico)

Screenplay by Bogliano

Here Comes the Devil

A pair of children wanders away from their parents during a family trip in Tijuana. After a desperate search, the children are found and they both exhibit very unusual behavior. Make no mistake about it, Here Comes the Devil is one of the most unusual possession horror films ever made and it keeps the viewer off balance at all times as it builds to a jarring climax.

A screenwriter/director with a lengthy resume of feature films under his belt in his early 30s, Bogliano can be seen as the Latino counterpart of America’s Ti West and he delivers his best and most cohesive work to date with this film. Bogliano was previously best known for the horror films Cold Sweat (2010) and Penumbra (2011) and he created a segment for The ABCs of Death (2012). His werewolf film Late Phases is slated for release in 2014.

Other Notable Non-English Language Horror Films of the past 25 years: Kairo (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2000, Japan), H (Jong-hyuk Lee, 2002, South Korea), Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008, France), Julia’s Eyes (Guillem Morales, 2010, Spain), Kidnapped (Miguel Angel Vivas, 2010, Spain).

Author Bio: Terek Puckett is an actor, screenwriter and film writer based in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of Wright State University in Ohio and his areas of film expertise include horror cinema and neo-film noir. More of his film writing can be seen here: